Lego Man Macro

Self Portrait
I’ve been experimenting again with Poor Man’s Macro with the reverse 50mm lens I mentioned before. What I’ve learned so far is that the focus ring on the reverse lens doesn’t make much difference. None that I could tell. It’s also better to use manual focus on the normal lens, otherwise it has to hunt around a lot, or you have set a single focal point and not an average. For this picture I think I used manual focus, but it can remember for sure.

It also helps if you can steady your hand against something while shooting to reduce forward-backward movement. Getting the focus just right is tricky, so you want to be as still as possible. This Lego man was on top of my dresser so I could steady myself on the dresser. The dresser is right next to the window, which faces roughly southwest so the sun was shining through quite nicely.

In terms of processing, I didn’t do much – just some contrast. The vignetting is from the reverse lens, but it worked nicely for this shot. I probably should have wiped the dust off before shooting. Next time.

Shot Details

Taken 8/30/2007 6:17 PM (GMT-8)
1/125 second
ISO 500


Bunker 3

Here’s the first photo from my Point Bonita shoot last weekend. With the eclipse, kids going back to school, and work it’s been hard to find time to go through the images and pick some to post.

To be honest, I wasn’t happy with my shooting that day. It was a fogging day, so everything looked really flat. Point Bonita has incredible views of the Golden Gate and the western part of San Francisco, but the fog made it difficult for me to shoot any nice landscapes. I ended up taking a lot of pictures of the old military bunkers. For some reason, they are good subjects for me.

I also spent a bit more time processing the images. Normally I do a little brightness and contrast adjustment, maybe some cropping, but not much else. For these shots because the lighting was so flat, I played with curves more to bring out the colors and add depth. For this shot I applied a colored filter to bring out certain tones and did some pretty drastic curves adjustments. I’m starting to experiment more with post-processing on some shots, but I’m not sure how I like it. I tend to be more of a “get right in the camera” photographer, but sometimes some shots just need more help. When I took this shot I planned on a lot of processing and intended it to be black and white. I guess the more abstract the shot, the more processing I’m willing to do. When shooting I usually do think about what level of processing I’ll do on the computer when I get home. I knew this image would have a lot or processing.

One thing I’ve learned while working with RAW images is that I need a faster computer with more RAM. My 1.5 GHz with 512 MB of RAM is just too slow. Maybe I’ll get a new motherboard and processor instead of buying some of the photo gear I’ve been planning on.

There are more Point Bonita shots on Zooomr; I’ll probably blog a couple of them this week. You can view this one on Zooomr with a GeoTag. Since Zooomr isn’t showing EXIF info, I’m including it on the blog posts. I’ll update this post later with that info.

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse

Yesterday I ran around and got a tripod and remote trigger so I could take pictures of the lunar eclipse early this morning. For my first real attempt at astrophotography, I’m pretty pleased. It was a challenge getting out of bed and setting up in the dark, but it was worth it. The eclipse was incredible. Even if I hadn’t taken pictures, it was worth it.

To be perfectly honest, I’m too tired to write much. I still have some shots of Point Bonita and GGNRA to post, but they’ll have to wait. The one thing I do want to mention is the remote trigger I got. I bought a third-party wireless remote trigger instead of the Canon remote. It worked beautifully. It’s a SecuLine Twin1 Wire & Wireless remote shutter controller. I got it at my local camera shop because they have a 15 day return policy, but I’ll be keeping it. The manual is in English, but clearly was translated by someone who is not a native speaker. Nevertheless, I was able to understand most of it and after some trial and error, got it working. It also comes with a handy mini-tool with Phillips and flat-head screw drivers; really small ones. I’m now itching to go out a night and shoot. The remote and tripod have opened a new world for me.

Shot Details:

Moon in almost total eclipse August 28, 2007 3:02am GMT-8
Exposure time: 4 seconds
Focal Length: 300mm

If you want to see other amazing shots of the eclipse, go to Zooomr and search for “lunar eclipse”. Here’s links to two of my favorites:

folks over at the Shutters Inc. podcast also have great some eclipse photos.

Holy Joe

Holy Joe
This will be a quick post, trying to maintain the shot a day idea (although it has been a very long time since I’ve posted on consecutive days.)

Yesterday I went out to Point Bonita in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area with my family to hike around and shoot some pictures. We followed that up with dinner at Joe’s Taco Lounge in Mill Valley. Joe’s is the best Taco Lounge around. To this day I have not found a better chicken burrito. The decor of the place really makes the experience. The walls are lined with hot sauce, as shown in the image above. There’s also plenty of religious artwork and icons as well. It’s only a couple of miles of 101, so stop by if you get the chance.

Tonight I plan on getting up to shoot the eclipse, but have splitting headache at the moment, so I’m playing it by ear.

Shot Details:
Taken August 26, 2007
Mill Valley, CA
Aperture: 4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 800

Poor Man’s Macro, Take 2


After my first attempts at the Poor Man’s Macro, I decided to give it another try with my new camera. At some point in the past couple of weeks it dawned on me that I had an old Canon T70 with a 50mm lens on it that I could use for macro shots. The only problem was finding the camera. It turned out to be stashed in the attic with my wife’s old Pentax. Both were great cameras that we used until they stopped working.

I pulled the lens off my camera, but couldn’t figure out how to open the aperture all the way. When the lens is off the camera, the aperture closes down, which makes the lens useless for the Poor Man’s Macro. Luckily my wife’s old Pentax also had a 50mm lens that didn’t close down when off the camera. So, now I have a second lens I can reverse without taking the 18-55mm lens off my camera.

To take this shot I simply held the 50mm lens in front of my regular lens, but reversed. I’m still unsure of whether to use a large or small aperture on the normal lens. The depth of field is already compressed, and the slightest movement forward or backward changes the focus. I think the compressed depth of field comes from the reverse lens since the aperture is wide open. I don’t think the aperture on the normal lens matters. I’m also unsure of where to focus, and if changing the focus on the reverse lens matters. I need to experiment more with the focus ring of both lenses to see how they impact the images. Right now I just move closer or farther from the subject to change the focal point.

It is somewhat difficult to hold the reverse lens in the right place. An adapter of some kind would help, but since the lenses are different sizes I doubt I can find a reversing ring that would work. I may have to build my own. Having the reverse lens actually mounted on the normal lens would allow me to experiment with changing both focus rings. I’ll keep playing with this technique to see what works best for me.

I took a lot of pictures, but this is the only one that worked out. I converted it to monochrome in Digital Photo Professional and did some contrast adjustment.

Shot Details:

Taken August 23, 2007.
Normal lens: 55mm
Reversed lens: 50mm
1/50 shutter speed, f5.6, ISO 800

Dahlias in Golden Gate Park

The things you know

On our day trip to San Francisco last weekend, my wife had to take me by the dahlias outside the Conservatory of Flowers. I’m glad she did. I’m so bad with flower names I probably couldn’t have identified a dahlia myself, so didn’t really know what to expect until we got there. I had no idea dahlias came in so many sizes, shapes, and colors. My wife is a florist, so I’m a little ashamed to admit me floral ignorance. But I do like to take pictures of flowers, and this was an excellent opportunity. I geotagged the image on Zooomr so you can find out how to get there, but if you want to see them you’d better go soon. The flowers were a few days past their prime (according to my wife) so won’t be as spectacular much longer.

We went there late in the day, around 6:00 pm, so were able to park right next to the flowers. There were several other people taking photos of the dahlias, including a few people with the exact same camera I have, the Canon 30D. I’m still getting used to the controls on the camera, so I was slowed down a little. I still managed to take a couple of dozens photos in a few minutes. There are so many varieties and great shots, it wasn’t hard to take a lot of pictures. I wish I had thought to write down the flower names as I shot, or at least took shots of the little plaques with names. I’m going to need to get a notebook to start writing things down. The JPG records EXIF data, but usually there’s more going on in a shot than what EXIF records.

I used my 70-300mm IS lens to get the shots. The light was starting to fade, so even with the image stabilization a couple of shots were blurry.

Here are two other shots, the second one is the same variety as the main image:
Your Shining Face

What will be

Golden Gate Series

Golden Gate series 1

Yesterday my family took a day trip to San Francisco, mainly to walk the Golden Gate Bridge. I have lived basically my entire life within a few hours of San Francisco and have probably driven across the bridge over a thousand times, but until yesterday had never set foot on the bridge. If you live near San Francisco or are visiting, it is worth the effort. I don’t recommend Saturdays, but it was still quite an experience.

You’re walking within a few feet of traffic, so the noise gets to you. If you start on the city side, the crowds can be a chore to navigate. And bikes riding on the wrong side of the bridge can get annoying. (Bikes are not supposed to ride on the east walkway on weekends, but apparently a lot of people can’t read the signs.) But once you get past the south tower, the crowds thin out and the view gets better. We didn’t walk all the way across, but did go about 2/3 of the way. I had kids with me and they weren’t up to the entire walk. I imagine on foot it would take less than two hours to go all the way across and back, taking some time to stop and enjoy the view, or shoot some pictures. You really could spend a day just around the bridge, there are plenty of things to see on both sides.

So, if you can, walk the bridge. I know it’s a “tourist” thing to do, but really should be done by anyone within driving distance, at least once. It is probably the single most recognized landmark west of the Statue of Liberty and probably the most well known bridge in the world, so it’s worth a couple of hours of your life.

I shot this in RAW (of course) with my standard 18-55mm lens. I did use a polarizing filter. I converted it to black and white and did all other processing in Digital Photography Professional, which came with my camera. It’s quite a good program, I was impressed with all it had to offer. I did apply a red filter to the image to add contrast. DPP can simulate red, yellow, orange and green filters with monochrome images. I thought that was pretty cool.

Here’s a few other shots. More are on Zooomr.

Golden Gate series 3 Golden Gate series 2

Golden Gate series 6

Boulevard Cinemas at Night

Cinema at Sunset

I got my new Canon 30D yesterday and went out to shoot. Unfortunately, it was a little late and I don’t have a tripod, so the lighting wasn’t great. I did take a few shots, including this one of the local movie theater. I brought two of the kids and the new puppy with me, so the shooting conditions really weren’t optimal, but I had to shoot something. I’m pleased with the few shots I’ve taken, and will be taking more today.

Even though I’ve barely used the camera, I can tell I’m really going to enjoy it. For starters the layout of the controls is much better than the Rebel XT. I really like the LCD on the top of the camera that shows the current settings. Also, the LCD for viewing shots is bigger, which is always a plus. The camera does weigh more than the XT, but not much.

One other thing I like is that you can shoot RAW + JPG, which all Canon DSLRs support, but with the 30D you can select various sizes for the JPG. With the XT I could only shoot RAW + large JPG. Now I can shoot RAW + small JPG and save space on the card. I like having the EXIF data in the JPG, but don’t really use the actual JPG image. I’ll probably always shoot RAW + small JPG unless someone can give me a reason to use large JPG.

Take a look at this shot on Zooomr, and a couple of other shots:



New Camera

It’s been an unusually slow week for posting this week mainly because I’m getting a new camera. I’ve had a Canon Digital Rebel XT (aka 350D) for over two years and absolutely loved it. It took great pictures and met all my photographic needs. It had the features I needed at a price I could manage. Sometime over the past few months, I noticed spots in some images, mostly in photos of the sky. At first I thought it was on the lens, but then I got a new lens and the spots turned up in exactly the same place in my images. Here’s an example from my new lens:
Trinity Alps

In the sky there are two dark areas, one on the left and one on the right (which is hard to see). You might have to go to Zooomr and view the larger size to really see them, but they are there. I know they aren’t that noticeable on this image, but on others they are more pronounced, and I know they are there. It’s annoying. It’s probably dirt on sensor, or it could be something else. I’m not sure, but I bought the camera at Costco so I returned it today and ordered a Canon 30D. I wanted something compatible with the new lens, and the 30D is the same price now that I paid two years ago for the XT.

I read some comparisons of the XTi and 30D and was concerned over the XTi’s performance using higher ISOs and the quality of the images. I have a friend who has the 30D and takes some great pictures, so I figured it was a safe bet.

So my new camera should be arriving by the end of the week. I’ll post some shots as soon as I can. I’ve got a couple of outings planned for shooting already.

Blackberry Pie

Pie, after
Last weekend my family went out and picked some blackberries, so I made a pie. It was a good pie, especially with vanilla ice cream. It was decent year for blackberries, even with the low rainfall. The berries weren’t as big as I’ve seen them in the past, but were sweet. Picking blackberries is somewhat of a labor of love. It takes a quite a while to get enough berries for a pie and your hands end up stained and cut from the thorns. But then, there’s nothing like a warm blackberry pie.

Blackberry picking is somewhat of a ritual for us every year. We make a point of picking as much as we can, but as the years go by, summer gets busier so we don’t get out to pick as much as we used to. But we do get fresh berries every year. I’m hoping to get out again soon to pick more berries and make another pie. We’ll see.